After World War II, the UN of General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. World leaders joined together in order to ensure that each and every human being was guaranteed equal rights. Equal rights basically, in short, ensures that there is no legal preferential treatment to anyone regardless of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and age. According to the 4th Amendment which states: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.” However, the prevalence of modern-day slavery has now taken new depths- many young children are bought and sold for labor and/or sex trafficking.
Historically, children have always been subject to working in factories and in hazardous conditions. With the rise of the industrial revolution, children were hired as cheap labor to operate power-driven machines, since those did not require physical strength and because of this employer would pay the children very little for their work. Contrary to belief, the work proved to be physically and mentally draining on the working children and many became ill. As a result of these hazardous health conditions, they were unable to attain a decent education. Thus The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was established to prohibit the employment of minors in “oppressive child labor.” Oppressive child labor is the employment of a child under 16 by anyone other than that child’s parent(s) or guardian(s). However, the Secretary of Labor permits the employment of individuals between 14 and 16 so long as the work is not in the manufacturing or mining industries and so long as the child’s health, well-being, and education are not negatively affected. Occupations that are deemed hazardous to the health or well-being of individuals between 16 and 18 years old are also considered to be “oppressive child labor.” Even though this Act established the trade still persisted throughout the 20th Century which led to the implementation of The Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. As stated in The Convention on the Rights of the Child “the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”
In the 21st century, many like Kailash Satyarthi, an activist in India are devoting their lives to ensure that child slave labor is abolished. Satyarthi was one of two Nobel Peace Prize winners in 2014 and devoted his career to rescuing children working as factory slaves “The Price of Free” an awareness documentary focused on the global consumer market and the devastating effects it had on India’s youth. Satyarhi made it his mission to expose and rescue these factories who endorse this unethical behavior.
Alongside Satyarhi, there are many others like Shraysi Tandon. Tandon was another activist who devoted her life to bringing awareness to this underground circuit. Her debut feature, the investigative documentary “Invisible Hands,” jumps into the murky and shameful world of child trafficking and forced labor. She expressed concern for the harsh chemicals that these young slaves have to endure while working. She states “Trussing tobacco leaves in Indonesia while absorbing dangerous doses of nicotine; toiling as cheap farm labor in the United States, unprotected from toxic pesticides; hacking cocoa beans in Ghana through their owners have never tasted chocolate.” Tandon elaborates on the fact that big corporations like Jewelry, makeup and luxury times too, Nestle and Unilever to Speedstick deodorant and toothpaste. She wants to bring awareness to the fact that when consumers need to understand and visualize the strenuous labor that goes into these products which is all being done by children.
There are several categories of child labor, including the multimillion-dollar corporation exploiting young children. Zoning in specifically on child sex trafficking, the buying and selling of underage minors who are forced to indulge in sexual activities, is another category of child slavery. According to Kari Johnstone, Acting Director of the Department of State in the Trafficking in Persons Report June 2018 stated that “human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, is a global threat that touches nearly every corner of the world.” The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report details the complications the government and societies who are facing these social problems such as human trafficking and cheap child labor and assesses reasonable response to target these issues, “hold perpetrators accountable, protect victims, and prevent others from enduring this devastating crime.” The Acting Director even visited two rural communities in Ghana. She goes on to state that “in these villages, I observed how traditional leaders and elders worked with volunteers and social workers to develop a common understanding of the dangers of human trafficking and a proactive community approach to mitigate those dangers. These inspiring local leaders described how they learned about trafficking from a Ghanaian NGO, taught others, and took steps to identify suspected child trafficking cases. These communities, and others like them, removed more than 180 children from forced labor and prevented numerous others from suffering such exploitation. “
All these examples of activists and government organizations who are continually striving to put an end to this slave trade illustrate the lengths that individuals are going to ensure that everyone should have equal rights is inspiring but not fully effective. More than a million children, about 10, 000 cases alone are from the United States, are exploited each year despite the rise of awareness on a global scale and the toughening of laws trying to prevent these highly profitable organizations from buying and selling young children for sex labor.
On the other spectrum, the children who grow through this system and manage to escape in some form usually end up homeless or in shelters. Due to exploitation, many of the survivors usually drift towards drugs and prostitution as a means to make money and to release their pain or they end up in government shelter care. For example, in the Miami-Dade Country area specifically, the Miami Bridge is the only emergency home for minors who are runaways, having problems at home, orphans, and truants. This program entails and teaches these children basic social and professional skills in order to have a better life.